Few months after the announcement of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 2014, Iran began providing ground military consultancy services to the Iraqi government and supplying weapons to the Kurds in their fight against Daesh. Although denied, the Iranian intervention was the first response by a foreign country in combating Sunni-extremism, which at that time was considered by the US and its allies as an interference in Iraq’s internal affairs; for not to say a spoke in their wheel of plans.
But the most effective operations against Daesh occurred in September 2015 with Russian Forces launching a heavy bombarding campaign of ISIS positions and camps, as well as Al Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army.
Arab Gulf states, the US and EU condemned Russia’s action as it jeopardized their interests and support to militants and forces operating on the Syrian ground.
Since that date, many regional and international partnerships were formed to combat terrorism. From the Global Coalition led by the US to the Russian Coalition, and the Islamic Military Alliance led by Saudi Arabia; none of these groups clearly announced their real intentions.
Russia bombarded ISIS, Al-Nusra, and rebels opposing the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. The US coalition claimed to target ISIS in both Syria and Iraq but “mistakenly” targeted Syrian Arab Army at numerous times. While the Saudi-solo coalition never defined belligerents behind “terrorism”, in a way to exclude Sunni-Wahhabism from the equation and open an opportunity to link terrorism to whoever they like.
Nevertheless, ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq is shrinking day after day and will end with an ultimate battle for Raqqa and Mosul. But despite this expected and unanimous victory, all foreign forces involved in the conflict already fortified their presence in Syria for the post-ISIS.
In the North, Kurds have already established an autonomous region with the help of Iraq, Iran and EU countries, but this support increased after the creation of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) that combined Kurds, Assyrian, Turkmen, and Arabs under a strict control of the US Army. This new entity detached itself from the YPG and Kurdish forces and restricted from any hostilities with the neighboring Turkey.
Turkey from its side is still backing Free Syrian Army rebels fighting around Idlib province, and it created a security zone on its border, in the hope of being in a good position for any future negotiations.
Russia, SAA and Hezbollah are fully engaged to maintain the Syrian littoral from Latakia until the borders with Israel in Al-Suwaida passing by major cities like Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Damascus, and Palmyra. But the US Army is insisting not to leave any vacant ground for the Syrian Arab Army, and constantly bombards their advancement in key military positions and vital roads leading to Iraq and Turkey.
The partition of Syria will not end ISIS or the phenomena of terrorism, on the contrary, it will emerge in other vulnerable countries stuck in the middle of this new cold war.
In Nigeria, Boko Haram’s ground control is expected to expand further to the south, taking rural villages, on a continent where weapons are more solicited than food.
In South-East Asia, the group of Abou Sayyaf has increased its suicide attacks in Indonesia, while Islamists are heavily clashing with the Philippine army in Marawi. That sudden awakening of Islamists in the Philippines is the consequences of shifting alliances by President Duterte from a US embrace to a Russian-Chinese one.
In Egypt, the Sinai insurgency moved from impartial Sufism to Islamism endorsed by Daesh, something that embarrassed President Sisi who declined the Saudi alliance against Bashar Al-Assad in Syria and the Houthis in Yemen. It cost him a public outrage following the attacks on Coptic Christians with the sole purpose of creating an internal turmoil that could topple the president.
The crisis in Yemen is expected to last until its population kneel to Saudi Arabia who is determined to gain control of this strategic access to the Red Sea, and precede any Iranian influence on its governmental institutions.
The Shia government in Iraq will remain a key ally for Iran with the consent of the US and will face sporadic terrorist attacks by Daesh leftovers across the country.
Afghanistan or the permanent testing ground for American weapons is plunging deeper in Islamist extremism, with a rise in sympathy for Daesh at the expense of Taliban and Al-Qaeda, making it a potential exporter of jihadists to fertile war zones.
Libya has currently two governments and two armies, and a dozen militia groups; but this divided governance led to a breach in a 120 years agreement between the Tuareg and Tebu. Two tribes that live in a region between Libya, Mali, Algeria, and Niger and who are thriving for independence, or to obtain all the guarantees promised under Gaddafi but never achieved.
One thing is certain, defeating Daesh in Syria and Iraq will not end the war in these respective countries, nor will it diminish terrorist attacks in western countries, but it will create new groups based on race and religious that will play a role in proxy wars between regional and world powers.
The vacuum left behind after Daesh’s loss of territory will be the next wave of proxy wars. SDF, Turkey, Free Syrian Army, Saudi Islamic Coalition, Syrian Arab Army, Syrian Mobilization Forces, Iranian Paramilitary Forces, Russian Forces, and others proves that an inevitable intervention of alien forces in Syria will come from the southern border with Jordan under the banner of the Islamic Coalition led by Saudi Arabia, while from the North the SDF fully backed by Americans will race towards Raqqa and the frontier with the Syrian desert.
At the same time, SAA backed by Russia and Iran will continue the race to retake as much territory as possible in parallel of the failed Geneva Peace Talks that included the High Negotiations Committee (backed by Saudi Arabia), the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (backed by Qatar), the Kurdish National Council (backed by US), and other small groupings led by UAE and EU countries.
In the end, the rat race to Raqqa will grant the first conquistador the luxury of declaring a symbolic and unilateral victory over Daesh and enjoy a wide media coverage, but this victory will be short-lived upon exploiting again the term “terrorism” for hidden agenda with the sole purpose to associate it with…Iran.